Harold Ford, Jr. To Chair DLC? …And Other Centrist Democratic News Of Note

Various news outlets are reporting Harold Ford Jr. has been offered the chairmanship of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist “think tank.”

Specifically, Radar Online reports:

Young, black, and good-looking, Harold Ford is the kind of comer that the Democratic Party latches onto. But last November, after losing the closest Senate race in Tennessee history to Republican Bob Corker, the 10-year congressman suddenly found himself out of a job. So, many wondered, where would he end up?

Radar has learned that Ford has been offered the chairmanship of the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist think tank founded in the mid-’80s by Al From and other New Democrats as a tool for cultivating like-minded candidates, particularly at the presidential level.

According to a draft memo that sources provided to Radar, Ford has agreed to replace Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as chairman of the influential organization. Vilsack, a centrist with little national name recognition, recently announced that he would run for president in 2008. After interviewing a number of high-profile candidates for the job, DLC honchos decided that Ford would be the ideal choice to run the group. In the Jan. 8 memo obtained by Radar, Ford seemed to eagerly anticipate the prospect. “I have enjoyed our conversations and am excited about becoming the Chairman of the DLC,” Ford wrote to Al From, the DLC’s CEO. “Your stewardship of the organization over the years has made the DLC one of the premiere Democratic think tanks.”

I think this is a great move on the part of the DLC.  Not only does Harold Ford, Jr. have political instincts and charisma not seen since Bill Clinton, being black adds an extra level of credibility to the organization that has been criticized over the years for being some sort of “white men only” club.  In return, the organization that helped launch the political fortunes of the Clintons, Al Gore, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Eliot Spitzer, and others will give Ford an extra dimension of bona fides as a conservative southern black Democrat.

On the topic of the DLC, their magazine Blueprint has some excellent pieces in it this month, starting with one by Dan Gerstein, a Joe Lieberman campaign insider who explains how the Lieberman-Lamont senate race provided a nearly pure real-world test of two competing approaches to Democratic politics:

From my perspective, what purportedly started as a revolution — the blog-driven Lamont uprising — turned out to be a revelation about the rival forces vying to shape the party’s direction in the post-Clinton, post-Bush era. This clash, which has been brewing for the past six years, as Democrats have been stewing over two straight presidential losses, is not ideological so much as tonal and, in some respects, temperamental. It is, in essence, a fight over how we fight politically, a struggle between two starkly different approaches to campaigning and governing.

On the one side stands what might be called the school of polarization. The Democrats in this camp have been radicalized by their anger at President Bush’s policies and leadership, which they tend to view as venal and illegitimate. They believe that the Democratic leadership in Washington has been far too accommodating — some would say feeble — in its opposition, and that the only way to win electorally and legislatively is to fight ire with ire.

These polarized Democrats, who fueled the rise of Lamont’s candidacy, have gone past disagreeing with the Republicans, to despising them. They no longer see Republicans as the opposition, but as the enemy. And they believe that the end of defeating this enemy justifies just about any means.

On the other side stands the school of problem-solving. The Democrats in this camp are also deeply troubled by the direction of the country under Bush and strongly disagree with most of his policies. But they don’t believe the way to move the country forward — or to earn the voters’ trust — is simply to repackage the hard partisanship and divisiveness of the Bush years in blue wrapping.

Instead, these problem-solving Democrats, who rallied to Lieberman’s side in the general election, subscribe to the politics of results. They believe that, in a closely divided and increasingly independent-minded electorate, the best strategy for winning elections is to offer winning ideas. That means showing the American people that we not only relate to the challenges they face, but we have effective plans for meeting them.

Gerstein goes on to talk campaign strategies and the various smears against Lieberman that emanated from the left.

Harold Ford, Jr. offers up a well-reasoned piece of his own on how the Democrats won in 2006, not on ideology, but on ideas.  Read it here.

We’re also treated to an excerpt from a book titled, “The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008” by Mark Halperin and John F. Harris.  In it, the authors describe two strains of presidential politics practiced in the past two decades. One is a Clinton Politics of centrist inclusion, the other a Bush Politics of polarization. The big question, they write, is which will prevail in 2008?  But even more interesting is their take on how brutal the 2008 election will be:

The die is cast: The next presidential election will take place in a Freak Show environment more virulent than anything Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ever faced. With 16 straight years of polarizing presidents, new bloggers and websites popping up daily, a poisoned tone in Washington, unshackled interest groups, campaign finance laws that help channel money toward shadowy sources, and the further decline of the Old Media’s commitment to serious news coverage — with all that, plus a wide-open race with no incumbent president or vice president running — the 2008 election is sure to be one in which nearly every hand reaching for the brass ring will be wearing brass knuckles.

Read more on that here.


One Response to Harold Ford, Jr. To Chair DLC? …And Other Centrist Democratic News Of Note

  1. Gary says:

    Great move by From and Co. Ford is young, and will move the Democrats away from the old style extreme liberal wing to a new vital center with engaging ideas on so many fronts. I wish Harold well.

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